discipleship

Rick Warren opened his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, with these words, “It’s not about you.” Warren was talking about purpose and mission in life. He’s right.

Since the beginning of summer, I’ve been preaching from the book of Proverbs. The last several weeks I’ve dealt with several convicting subjects according to the book of Proverbs: pride, words, and anger. You can listen to the podcasts of recent sermons by searching for Wilkesboro Baptist wherever you find podcasts or by visiting our podcast page here: https://www.wilkesborobaptist.org/podcasts.

That sentence, “It’s not about you” covers the basic truth behind the character and virtue that the book of Proverbs is attempting to teach us.

We live in a “have it your way” culture where advertising, marketing, and media are aimed at making your life more convenient or happier. Just observe the self-help section in a bookstore or watch carefully the next set of commercials on television. If you listen to the subtle (or not so subtle) messaging, then it is easy to think that everything is about us. If I want a new car, then I deserve one. If I want to fit in, then I must have the newest iPhone. If I want to have a happy lunch, then I’ll get it “my way.”

I don’t mean to pick on advertising and marketing so much. It is just an illustration of a far deeper problem with humanity.

Let’s just take the subjects of the last three sermons I preached: pride, words, and anger. The vice of pride tells us that everything is about us. And when our pride is damaged, we act out. Our words are not necessarily good or bad, but most often they are about us. It is so easy to get caught up in the I, me, mine culture where everything I communicate in spoken or written word is about me. Think social media. If you want a convicting exercise, look back through your social media feeds and reread your posts. How many of them are about you? How many times did you write, “I,” “me,” or “mine.” And then there is anger. Most of the time, my anger is caused by something or someone that doesn’t match my expectations. I get angry when “I’m” impatient, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Essentially, these three topics are symptomatic of self-absorbed thinking.

We need to tell ourselves over and over again, “It’s not about me.”

If it’s not about us, then what on earth are we here for? In short, we’re here as reflections of the Creator. God made us in his image, for his glory, to accomplish his purpose. God made us to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

To put it one way, we exist to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. At Wilkesboro Baptist, we do this by worshiping, learning, serving, and replicating. These steps are good reminders that life is not about us.

In worship, we focus our attention on the Lord who is worthy of our praise. In true worship, our preferences and desires take a back seat to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.

In learning, we humble ourselves to be taught. As followers of Christ, we realize that we are on a journey to learn more about God, ourselves, our world, others, and our mission.

In serving, we put others first. Instead of being consumers of church culture, we are servants of others. We give our time, talents, and tithes as investments into the lives of others: be it people in our church, community, or across the world.

In replicating, we realize that the mission of making disciples is our priority. To replicate is to reproduce the life of Christ in someone else. We can’t replicate the life of Christ in someone else if the life of Christ is not the controlling presence in our own lives. And if we live each day as if it is about us, then we are actively working against the purpose of Christ in our own lives.

Is your life about you? If your behaviors, habits, and decisions say “Yes,” then maybe it’s time for some life analysis.

This message series has been convicting to me as well. Over the past several weeks, God has reminded me of ways where I have behaved as if my life is about me. May we learn to follow Christ and let the life of Christ live within us.

May Paul’s affirmation to the Galatians be true of us:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Galatians 2:2O

Photo by Ben Robbins on Unsplash

Originally published at Lifeway’s Pastor’s Today Blog

If your church is like ours, then you have mission trips planned for this summer. We have teams going to West Virginia, Vermont, Honduras, and Kenya. As a missions pastor, I’ve witnessed the power of God on numerous mission trips. There can be no doubt that prayer is the primary ingredient for spiritually successful mission trips. Here are some prayers I’ve learned to pray for our mission teams.

  1. Pray that the mission team will not let the platform take the place of the mission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. That’s our mission. Oftentimes, compassion ministry, construction, or other need-based ministries are the “platforms” that give opportunity for mission trips. But success in meeting these needs is not our “mission.” Our mission is disciple-making (evangelism, teaching, baptizing) connected to a local church. It is easy to let the need (platform) become the focus. Pray that your mission teams will not forget the “mission” in lieu of meeting the need.
  2. Pray for the spiritual preparation and development of the mission team.There’s a reason Paul’s prayer for spiritual boldness in proclaiming the gospel (Ephesians 6:19) followed his treatment of Christian armor and spiritual warfare. Mission trips are not for the spiritually weak—they require recognition of the spiritual war we are facing. Pray that your teams will be spiritually prepared for the work and war they are sure to face.
  3. Pray for the flexibility of the mission team. Sometimes our mission plans require revision and flexibility. Acts 16:6-10 records Paul’s prevention by the Holy Spirit of going into Asia and the Macedonian call. Mission teams must learn to trust God’s plan, not their own and be spiritually discerning. Pray that your teams will be flexible in their planning and discern what God wants to accomplish on the mission trip.
  4. Pray for the financial support of the mission team. When Jesus sent out his witnesses, he told them to trust the provision offered in the villages for their wages and sustenance (Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:4-8). International mission trips cost money. And I believe in a God who owns everything. Pray that God would meet the financial obligations of each team member and mission trip.
  5. Pray for the health, safety, and travel of the mission team. Traveling to mission destinations and encountering new bacteria (internationally) can drastically affect the health and strength of mission team participants. Getting sick is just a normal part of international travel. However there is precedent for praying for the health and safety of mission teams in in travel. Acts 27 records the storm at sea and shipwreck of Paul and his captors. Yet Paul prayed, and God protected all on the ship (Acts 27:24). Pray that your teams will experience safe travel and health protection while on the mission trip.
  6. Pray for the spiritual wisdom and loving service of the mission team. One of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian church was that they would grow in spiritual wisdom and depth of love (Ephesians 3:14-20). Mission team members need an abundance of wisdom and love, and God desires to provide it. Pray that your team members will be abundantly wise and discerning as well as filled with love for those whom they will serve and share with.
  7. Pray for the Spirit to open blinded eyes and that unbelievers would see Christ in all of his glory. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict and bring to light the truth and power of the gospel (John 16:8-11). Pray that the Holy Spirit would go ahead of your mission teams and prepare the hearts of the lost to respond to Christ and that the Spirit would draw unbelievers to Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
  8. Pray for the spiritual development, strength, and growth of the partner churches and missions that your teams will work with. Paul encouraged, commended, challenged, and prayed for the churches, elders and leaders of the Ephesian church before he finally parted ways with them. (Acts 20:17-38). Mission teams are only a part of God’s ongoing work in the world. Churches, organizations, pastors, and believers across the globe will continue God’s work far longer than a mission team serves on a mission trip. Pray for the partner churches, pastors, and organizations to have strength, growth, and success in fulfilling God’s disciple-making mission in their context.